What's This For? 10 Common Makeup Brushes And What They're Used For

The beauty world is vast and full of secrets. One of the biggest secrets out there is how makeup artists remember what brush to use for every section of their face! Even the beauty amateur is at risk of having fistfuls of brushes (some old, new, and some that you have no idea how they even got here) overwhelming their bathroom counter. The pros may know what to actually do with these brushes, but it doesn’t take a proper beauty education to find yourself saddled with this kind of rampant collection. It's time we stop using our Beautyblender to glob on pressed powder foundations and listen up because there’s a better way. These brushes may look similar to one another (or not even look like a brush at all), but they have a purpose in this world, just like all of us.

10. Foundation Brush

It’d be amazing if this was what our foundation brushes actually looked like, but that’s the magic of the Internet. When you’re not lavishing attention on keeping your brushes squeaky clean, you’re using them to apply makeup; or in this case, foundation.

These angled brushes are perfect for layering on your base; other foundation brushes are much smaller and have a half-oval shaped brush shape, but that’s for applying concealer to delicate, small areas — like the space around your nostril. These brushes, on the other hand, cover a lot more ground so that you can apply foundation to your forehead, chin, and cheeks without getting way too dense of a finish.

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9. Eyeliner Brush

Hi there, little guy! This brush is tiny but mighty. These brushes make any liquid or gel makeup you might own fairgrounds to be used as eyeliner. Got a blush you’re obsessed with? Dip this little guy in and draw a tight, sunset-inspired cat eye whenever you want. They’re also great for those pots of gel eyeliner.

They may look like there are only about five hairs on this brush, but you really don’t want more than that when you’re working in such a teensy, tiny area; especially if you get more creative and try more intense designs.

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8. Stippling Brush

Remember ombre hair? This brush has a look that harkens back to the days when Khloé Kardashian was a brunette on top and blonde on the bottom. But back to makeup... This stippling brush has extended white bristles for picking up liquid-foundation and gently applying it in light stippling motions, like the brush is gently bouncing from one area of your face to the other. Then, with equally light motions, it’s blended in with gentle circular motions to create an airbrushed base. A light hand really is key here. When you’re blending, only the white bristles should be moving. The product should never reach those denser, dark bristles.

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7. Fluffy Smudging Brushes

The bristles may differ in quality, material, and the level of ethical consideration that goes into their production, but most of us reach a point where we all need to smudge some part of our makeup. The smaller brush is perfect for hitting the crease above your eyelid, and that bigger one is good for non-eye uses. Whether you're blending your eyeshadow for a smoky eye or softening an intensely pigmented blush, that’s where these fluffy guys come in. They’re gentle enough to not totally dislodge and relocate your makeup while still blotting your look into a more natural finish.

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6. Spoolie

Oh, you weird hybrid of a makeup brush and a pipe cleaner (and maybe even a q-tip), how we love you, spoolies!

This guy is a comb for your eyebrows... literally. Whether you’re doing an at-home clean-up job and need to get all the strands in one direction before sniping, or you’re applying color to your eyebrow — this guy is an eyebrow essential. Even if you don’t wear makeup all that frequently, a neat eyebrow is just another part of daily hygiene that literally takes a second to change. This small tool makes all the difference on your face.

5. Contour Brush

Would we know a contour brush's name if the Kardashians hadn’t turned us on to a makeup technique previously reserved for the art of drag? I don’t want to consider that kind of world. The angled nature of a contour brush is perfect for applying bronzer beneath your cheekbones and highlighter above, as well as darkening the arc of your forehead to create the illusion of a smaller one (if that’s a look you go for). It’s also perfect for defining the jawline when a darker powder is applied. Contouring is about precision, but also softness. Harsh, angular lines are later buffed into a more natural look.

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4. Kabuki Brush

Brushes come in all price ranges and colors. Some resemble unicorn horns and some, like a kabuki brush, are much shorter than your typical makeup brush. Your kabuki brush is used to apply loose face powder to the larger surfaces of your face, such as foundation or even blush. The shape and design of the brush is thought to create a soft, natural application and is famously versatile for all kinds of uncommon uses. That said, there are also flat kabuki brushes out there. Don’t underestimate your mushroom-shaped friend — you’d be amazed by the tricks a kabuki brush has hiding.

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3. Eyeshadow Brush

The eyeshadow brush is the ever-so-slightly larger sibling to the eyeliner brush. Neither is all that domineering, but both are totally essential in your makeup bag. While an angled eyeliner brush is perfect for making a hard line, the rounder eyeshadow brush is great for applying your base color (something that matches skin tone and sets an even canvas for the next layers). A smaller brush is essential to pack in the pigment in the corners of your eyes. Yes, even a brush this size may be too large for certain parts.

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2. Fan Brush

How gorgeous is this brush? Not only are the colors of this brand immaculate, but the actual look of a fan brush, in general, is swoon-worthy. They just look so luxurious. Looks can be deceiving, though — these brushes can be super affordable and nowhere near the expensive end of the spectrum. The spread-out distribution of bristles makes these perfect for blending or applying a finishing powder on top of your makeup. All powders are evenly distributed with the innovative fan shape. The thinness of the brush (paired with a light hand) leads to a seamless application. They’re also obviously perfect for covering large expanses of your face (such as, you know, all of it when you’re applying finishing powder).

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1. Brush Blush

Well, this one has its purpose in the name, so that makes it easy. Your blush brush may not be the most versatile in your makeup bag (it can’t exactly dab on eyeshadow or double as a lipstick brush), but it certainly is important. Perfect for applying a rosy glow to the apples of your cheeks, this brush is used by packing on powder, gently tapping off any excess, and applying—while smiling—to figure out the most natural application. Combined with a stippling motion, this brush can also apply cream brushes. Although, a brush used for powders shouldn’t be used for liquid makeup (and vice versa) without a good cleaning in between.

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